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EU quizzes telecom firms, handset makers on Google's Android

Android mascots are lined up in the demonstration area at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif
Android mascots are lined up in the demonstration area at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union antitrust regulators are asking mobile telecoms operators and handset makers if their Android deals with Google block rivals in mobile telephony, a move that could lead to a second investigation into the company.

Google is already seeking to settle a three-year probe into complaints it squeezed out online search rivals. The Internet search company has offered concessions including labeling its products in search results and providing links to competing sites. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said he will likely ask for more.

The EU regulators' latest action was prompted by complaints, including from Microsoft and Nokia, to the European Commission in April that accused Google of using its Android operating system for smartphones to divert traffic to its search engine.

Android is widely used in smartphones and tablets, with a 60 percent global market share compared to Apple's 19 percent, according to consultancy Canalys.

The Commission asked telecoms providers and handset makers whether the Android agreements with Google "contain clauses preventing or limiting you from launching/distributing non-Android devices," according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters.

The EU competition authority also wanted to know if there were restrictions for Android devices that did not meet Google's compatibility requirements.

Regulators asked if Google-branded Android devices could be shipped with mobile services that compete with the Internet search engine's own mobile services.

Google spokesman Al Verney said: "Android is an open platform that fosters competition. Handset makers, carriers and consumers can decide how to use Android, including which applications they want to use."

Respondents have until July 26 to reply to the list of 82 questions, which could determine whether the Commission will open a new investigation into the world's most popular Internet search engine.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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